Optimistic Vision Steadies Your Brokerage During Change

Brokers should model the traits they want their agents to have when moving forward in a new industry order.

It’s healthy to talk openly about the challenges and changes occurring in the real estate industry, but getting stuck on them is not. The moment is ripe with opportunity despite the initial discomfort of a new order in the profession following the National Association of REALTORS®’ settlement agreement. But “where there’s change, there’s always significant margin,” Peter Sheahan, a C-suite advisor and entrepreneur, told attendees at NAR’s REALTOR® Broker Summit in San Diego. 

Whether or not leaders reap the benefits of that margin is directly tied to their propensity for honesty, ability to adapt and willingness to lead with optimism, Sheahan added. 

The reality, he said, is that talking in a loop about what has changed or is changing in the industry is not the same thing as accepting those changes. And acceptance of change is the only thing that will enable leaders to move forward. Sheahan used the tumult caused by the Sitzer-Burnett case as an example but noted that the settlement gives some clarity to what change will look like.  

He said industry leaders like executives and brokers are tasked with reflecting on what’s different now, using the clarity provided by the settlement to create a plan of action.  

Question Your Assumptions 

The mindset of “this is how it’s always been done” is detrimental for a leader, Sheahan said. “You don’t want to shoehorn the past into the future.” 

He challenged brokers to collaborate with each other on areas of their businesses where they might be making assumptions about how things need to be done. Instead, Sheahan said, it’s important to take a step back from time to time and look at things objectively. It’s only when leaders are willing to challenge their own assumptions that they can make progress on systems and ways of doing things that are no longer working. 

Now is a great time for real estate leaders to challenge themselves to let go of resistance to the changes that are inevitable and look instead at the possibilities. “Your value proposition, in many cases, relies on your ability to lead through the change rather than waiting,” Sheahan said. 

Sheahan urged leaders to see the current uncertainty in the industry as an opportunity for growth, noting that agents are likely to be attracted to leaders who are creating the future rather than holding onto the past. He noted that brokers would be wise to prepare now for the changing compensation model rather than waiting until things feel like “they’re on fire.” 

“You do not want to spread anxiety and fear,” he said. “You have an obligation to be operating from burning ambition rather than a burning platform.” 

Take Responsibility and Lead 

Leaders often don’t realize that the people surrounding them are watching their every move. Sheahan used an experience from his own business as an example: He wanted to go home after a holiday party, but he was waiting on his staff members to leave first. A trusted staffer let him know that everyone was staying because Sheahan was still present. Sheahan says he didn’t believe the staffer but decided to test what she said. Once he left the party quietly, many of the staff members started leaving as well. 

The test was a moment of clarity for him. Once he realized his influence as a leader, he resolved to lean into soliciting feedback from his employees on how he could do so. He encourages brokers and real estate leaders to do the same. “Your agents will respond. They’re looking to you for direction,” Sheahan said. 

He stressed the importance of brokers being willing to figure out what their agents need and align those needs with their leadership style. He also spoke in depth about the importance of brokers leading with a mindset that aligns with their business goals. “Your job is to set the tone, and you should set a tone of optimism. If you are the leader in optimism, your agents will follow.”